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The Washington Coastal Atlas

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Atlas Purpose
The Washington Coastal Atlas (WCA) provides geographically linked information to support informed management of Washinton’s marine shorelines. Originally developed to help local governments develop Shoreline Master Programs, the Coastal Atlas is now a broadly useful tool that is heavily used by other programs and agencies to support research, permitting, planning, land management, and policy development.

Distinguishing features

  • Oblique aerial photos of the shoreline

    • Photos of marine and freshwater shorelines are available for viewing and can be downloaded directly from the Coastal Atlas web site
    • Decades of oblique aerial photos of the marine shorelines are also included in the Atlas; these can be used to determine changes in shorelines and shoreline development over time.

  • Land cover changes over time

    • The Atlas provides information on land cover changes over time, and it is easy to determine changes in forest cover and impervious surface, between 1991, 1996, and 2001 for all the western Washington at a country, watershed and subbasin scale.

Target Audience

  • General Public
  • Coastal/Environmental Managers
  • Tourists
  • Researchers/Scientists
  • Government/Public Bodies
  • Consultancies
  • Decision Makers
  • NGOs
  • Commercial/Industry

Atlas support (financial/institutional)
Partners and Funders
The Washington Coastal Atlas has been produced and is maintained by Washington Department of Ecology staff. Other state agencies have contributed staff time and small amounts of funding for specific components. Funding for work on the Coastal Atlas comes from state funds and from Washington’s NOAA OCRM Coastal Zone Management grant. Both revenue sources have been diminishing while the number of users and the amount of information served is increasing.

Atlas design and usability

  • Focus:

    • Map content

  • Documentation:

    • Metadata : Database, single format

  • Design

    • Clear navigation and instruction
    • Single point of access to data/map

  • Map Page

    • View unlimited layers
    • View data independently
    • Combined legend & layer list

  • Standards

    • Metadata standards: FGDC

Technology used

  • Mapping Software

    • Proprietary: ESRI ArcIMS 9.3

  • Database Management System:

    • Yes

  • Data Storage

    • Locally: Database (ArcSDE9.3 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005)

  • Server Operating System

    • Microsoft Windows 2003 Server R2
    • Web Server: IIS 6.0 with Apache Tomcat 5.5

  • Other

    • ASP.NET 2.0 is used for the Coastal Image Viewer and the Land Cover Tool

Functionality/tools available

  • Level:

    • Moderate

  • Search Capability

    • Search for attributes

  • Mapping Tools:

    • Zoom, recentre and full extent
    • Identify features
    • Print/Export maps
    • Measure line and areas

  • Other

    • Select by polygon, buffer, clear selected features, oblique aerial photo viewer and download, land cover change

Data/cartographic information included

  • Geographic Area: Washington State
  • Number of Datasets: 60 (does not include individual images)
  • Topics:

    • Physical Environment
    • Imagery
    • Management
    • Conservation
    • Infrastructure
    • Fisheries, Aquaculture & Agriculture
    • Coastal Habitats
    • Biology
    • Human Impact
    • Environmental Monitoring
    • Natural Resources

Data Issues

  • IPR/Cost

    • Data use restrictions

  • Accessibility

    • Data sourcing and acquisition
    • Limited GIS-ready data

  • Quality

    • Variable/inconsistent data quality
    • Incomparable regional datasets
    • Poor/non-existent metadata

  • Management

    • Balance of development and updates
    • Regularity of data updates
    • Resources to source/acquire data

  • Other

    • Incompatible geographic extent of some data (e.g. shoreline photos)
    • Important data sets do not exist (e.g. benthic habitat, seafloor, substrate, high quality bathymetric data)

Other challenges

  • Securing long term funding commitments
  • Setting up data sharing agreements
  • Critical gaps in existing information relevant to coastal and marine issues
  • Constantly changing technology
  • Constantly evolving web standards
  • Pressures to extend the geographic scope beyond coastal areas to serve non-coastal needs
  • Broad user base

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